The TVonics DTR-Z500HD is a slick, well-made Freeview HD PVR. TVonics has carved itself a distinctive, lozenge-shaped niche with its digital recorders, and this new model doesn't let the side down. It's available now from TVonics' website for around £225.
Design and connectivity
Like all TVonics PVRs, the DTR-Z500HD is remarkably small, measuring just 185 by 70 by 220mm. As a consequence, the ports on the rear are rather congested. In addition to Scart, there are three HDMI ports (one out and two in), enabling the Z500HD to function as an HDMI switcher, which is useful if you're running out of inputs on either your TV or AV receiver.
The HDMI ports are joined by an optical digital audio output, USB, aerial loop-through and Ethernet LAN ports. The latter is dormant, so don't rush to stick anything in it. The front-panel sports a secondary USB input. Sadly, this is for viewing JPEG and BMP photos only, and it won't play back music or video files, no matter how pleasantly you talk to it.
Set-up is a cinch. The PVR rattles through its channel-search routine at a rate of knots, before requesting confirmation of your TV area. Then it's good to go. All its menus are similarly responsive.
As a Freeview HD recorder, it offers free high-definition content from the BBC, ITV and Channel 4. These sit midway through the channel listings, but can be made more accessible by assigning them as favourites.
The DTR-Z500HD scores well from an operational point of view. Navigation is aided by understandable, intuitive menus. At a glance, you can tell what's ready to watch in the library and what's scheduled to record. Such ease of use is important if you're new to PVRs.
The electronic programme guide complies with the standard Freeview format, stretching forward eight days, and covering nine channels at a glance. In time-honoured tradition, coloured keys jump you back and forwards 24 hours within the listing.
This iteration of TVonics' user interface comes with plenty of polish. There's a choice of colour schemes, set off by arty shadows and gradients. We rather liked the sky-blue version.